Friday, December 17, 2010

So little time...

There is so much going on right now that I haven't had an opportunity to post. I have a few things I'd like to put together and present but I don't see it happening before Christmas, so, Merry Christmas to all, and here is a new picture so at least you don't have to see Bill Burroughs glowering at you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving Prayer-William S. Burroughs

Burroughs' Thanksgiving poem is not the place to go for a feel-good experience, but he always delivers on thought provoking material. Watch the show I put together with his audio here.
I promise I have something a little more heartwarming in the works for the Big Day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

one scary night

"My ass!"

I put together a little treat that I hoped would do the trick if you were looking to get into the Halloween spirit, but I couldn't get it to download onto this blog no matter what I tried. Please click to visit my YouTube channel and view One Dark Night. The above picture I meant to include in the collage but somehow overlooked!

I wonder if anyone (other than Brer) can identify the theme music?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Race With the Devil

Another bit of classic 70's horror, filmed on location in San Antonio, Castroville, Bandera, and Leakey, Texas, released in 1975. In the wake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Central Texas seemed to be the new Transylvania. For those of us from the area, it added another layer of fear, seeing such familiar terrain and people as the backdrop to a tale of terror, this being one of the worst kind: Satanic horror!

Folks from the San Antonio area might be amused to see the old Alamo Speedway at the beginning of the movie, along with a cameo by local legend/radio personality Ricci Ware as a racing official.

This is a genuinely scary and fun movie, with acting a cut above the usual of the genre, and a simple straightforward plot that keeps you hooked.


Friday, October 22, 2010


Mickey and the Haunted House. Another Halloween must. The whole cartoon is great by the way, but the music is really fun. In this 1929 short you can see a pretty rare example of Disney's recycling some animation cycles: some of the dancing skeleton scenes are taken from , logically enough, Skeleton Dance, a Silly Symphony from the year before. Even so, they have some fun with it by having the wind blow away all but the dancing legs!

By the way, I finished Blatty's sequel to The Exorcist, entitled Legion. This was the source to the movie Exorcist III. Oh, what an unholy mess, pun of course intended. It was not all bad, but it was so perfunctorily resolved after an immense build-up, it made me envision Blatty really working hard until the check from the publishers cleared, and then just sewing it up ASAP so he could hit the horse tracks.

Kinderman, the pre-Columbo Columboesque detective is the star of this one, and he is transformed into something of a Jewish mystic. In fact, the whole tale seems to have been written to support his philosophy that Lucifer was the big bang, an explosion of matter into a previously only spiritual universe, and that we are all part of him, trying to find our way back to God. Throw the oh-so-popular early 80's go-to topics of serial killers and televangelists, and you got yourself a sequel sir.

Even the book adds in the back of this 1983 paperback were a degradation from the awesome crap of the 70's. Here we have adds for V.C. Andrews "greatest" releases. I suppose I shouldn't mock, I have never read any V.C. Andrews. But still...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Magic' is Fun!

The year:1978.

The place: The Dixie Drive-in.

Ah, yes, good times. Mom loaded up the kids and took us to a double feature: The Phantom of the Paradise and Magic. Never mind that on the way to the theater a small pick-up swerved around us completely out of control , slamming into a telephone pole and vaporizing its unfortunate occupant before our eyes. Shaken and in shock we crept our way through the darkened traffic lights to the drive-in, glass from the wreck still glittering the hood of our car. We were not in too much shock to know Phantom kind of sucked and that Magic was pretty damn good.

Not so much a horror story as a psychological murder/romance, concerning Corky, a successful ventriloquist/magician/comedian, (played brilliantly by a young Anthony Hopkins), and his dissolution into madness as his Dummy alter-ego, Fats, starts calling the shots for the otherwise meek and sensitive entertainer.

Of course there is horror involved. Somehow things can never go well when you put a dummy in charge, (as all voters know) and people who stand in the way of Corky's re-connecting with his childhood dream girl (Ann Margaret) start finding themselves the victims of Dummicide.

The movie is based on a novel by William Goldman, and there was always some speculation on the side that Fats may not just be a fragment of Corky's psyche, but a malevolent force that sought to possess him, an idea that is fed primarily by a scene in the movie that shows Corky raging at the seated Dummy, whose eyes move around without Corky there to manipulate them!

I heard in the director's commentary on the DVD that it was an error that was left in just to bedevil viewers. Nice!

I have watched Magic several times over the years, and have a certain fondness for it. It has one of the most memorable previews ever, as shown above. "Magic is FUN...We're dead..."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trick or Treat!

One of my "must see" viewings every Halloween is "Trick or Treat", a Donald Duck short featuring Donald, his nephews, and a friendly old hag named Witch Hazel. This song is fun and catchy. I can hardly ever say the phrase "trick or treat" without hearing this song in my head!

We had a great comic book story version of this for years before ever seeing the cartoon, and the phrase "Whiskers from ye billy goat!" was much quoted from it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Legend of Boggy Creek

This one haunted my childhood , seen by seemingly everyone but the members of my family. I remember camping out with some relatives who had seen the movie, and they chilled and regaled us with various scenes from the movie. (The guy being hassled by Bigfoot while sitting on the pot was a fave!) Years later I got the movie on DVD and finally got to see it. Whoo-ee, a bit of a stinker, but for all it's cheap glory it managed to weave a pretty effective atmosphere, and its' documentary style (aside from the weird musical interlude) really made it fun. When I got the DVD I was shocked to see it was rated 'G', so infamous a film of terror! Then I watched it...Is there anything milder than 'G'? Still it spooked my son and nephew when we watched it, especially when I slipped out of the room and then came back in in a gorilla mask!

I read The Exorcist this week, continuing my October habit of reading great works of horror, and really enjoyed it. I was impressed at how closely the movie stayed with the book, save for a few minor dead-end side plots. But what really gave me a blast of the nostalgia of growing up in the weirdness of the early 70's era that spawned both Boggy and Exorcist, was the Bantam book order form in the back of the old paperback copy that I read.
....In Search of...Extraterrestrials by Alan and Sally Landsburg
....The Devil's Triangle by Richard Winer
....In Search of Ancient Mysteries by Alan and Sally Landsburg
....Not of This World by Peter Kolosimo
....The Reincarnation of Peter Proud by Max Ehrlich
....Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken
....A Complete guide to the Tarot by Eden Gray
....Gods From Outer Space by Erich Von Daniken
....The Outer Space Connection by Alan and Sally Landsburg.

Kind of brings it all back, eh? (BTW, all were in the $1.25-$1.95 range...sigh...)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Spirit is Willing

Do you remember this movie? It was in fairly heavy rotation on TV when I was growing up, but now seems to have slipped into the mists of time. The things that stood out in my memory were first the theme, which, as it turns out was written by the same guy that wrote the Addams family theme, and the ghost of the wacky lady in the red nightie. She always scared me, even though she was played for pretty broad laughs. Turns out this was produced by Master Schkockmeister William Castle! I saw the guy who plays the teenage son , Barry Gordon, on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm the other day playing an old Rabbi. I always think of him as that nebbishy kid from The Spirit is Willing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When Vampires Didn't Suck (as such)

Last evening I finished doing something that I have wanted to do for many years. Every October, I tell myself I really ought to re-read Dracula, seeing as I was a high school freshman the one and only time I read it. It affected me powerfully then, bringing vivid dreams and (I must confess) the very brief but memorable placing of garlic in my bedroom window.
It still packs quite the punch, though I haven't busted out with any garlic (yet!).
Stoker did an amazing job of weaving this complex tale through the first person point of view of numerous different people from different classes, sexes, and nationalities, in a very convincing way. I admired the novel from a technical as well as an entertainment standpoint, and though the Victorian prose sometimes got a bit thick, it was much more fast-paced and accessible than I remembered.
Movies have never gotten the Count just right, but for my money, the BBC's Count Dracula got the closest. My brother and I were such fans of this version we made an audio cassette recording of it when it re-played on PBS in the pre-VCR year (for us anyway) year of 1979. The cast was great, Louis Jourdan brought a suave yet decayed European elegance to the Count, and the true star of the show, Van Helsing, was played to absolute perfection by Frank Finlay. The haunting theme music performed the sublime miracle of capturing everything about Dracula: it was haunting, powerful, menacing, hypnotic, yearning, malevolent,...sad. Amazing.
I won't bore you with rants about how much vampire stuff mostly blows in this Twilight era. You know it and I know it. The modern twisting of the vampire myth to make the daemonic desirable is but one of the many illustrations existing in entertainment today that celebrates the spiritual degradation of the current zeitgeist. See The Monsters Among Us in my archive for more on that if you want.
If you haven't read Dracula, or read it a long time ago, do yourself a favor and enjoy it. If you have never seen The BBC's Count Dracula, track it down and see what I mean.
And keep the garlic handy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dark Secret of Harvest Home

1978. The Golden Age of "made for TV " movies!

I haven't seen this movie since then, but I remember it well. Bette Davis' performance as the Widow Fortune was powerful scary. (She reminded me of Mrs. Tennyson, my 7th grade Reading teacher at that time!) Later, when I was in 10th grade I read the Thomas Tryon novel Harvest Home on which this mini-series was based, and really enjoyed it as well. The great combination of Fall/Harvest imagery and ancient/pagan ritual made for a very evocative seasonal impression, that has stuck with me for all these years.

I have waited for years for this movie to be released, it is available on DVD only in bootlegs; some old VHS copies are still floating around for sale. It is available for viewing on YouTube and I think I shall watch it there. ( Might not be the best quality, but hey, after 32 years, who cares?)

Tryon also wrote another good book, The Other, which also had a memorable movie made from it, about a little boy on a New England farm, who is haunted by the spirit of his less than innocent dead twin . Reading Tryon, Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft at this time convinced me that it was a very good thing that New England was on the other end of the country from me!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Raven

Poe, Dore', and Basil Rathbone...Nice combo...I am pretty pleased at how this arrangement came out except for the blackout at the end, where a couple of misfire credits show through the darkness. I am pretty proud of this, but not THAT proud!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Once Upon a Time

This is a collection of nice stuff from the Golden Age of Illustration, set to the track "The De Lesseps' Dance" from the Shakespeare in Love soundtrack. I wanted to present these with no added effects so that I didn't get in the way of the great pictures. I recommend watching this on full screen. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cosmic Consciousness

A few weeks ago while perusing the clearance section of a nearby Half-Price Books, I came across a copy of Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D. The title of the book rang a bell; I recalled that Colin Wilson had made mention of this work several times in his illuminating The Occult and its sequel Beyond the Occult. I looked at the photograph of the author, saw the book was only three bucks, and decided to check it out.

And I am glad I did.

First off , the biography of Bucke is amazing. For a more complete account, click But , in brief, Bucke was born in England, immigrated with his family to Canada, lost his parents at an early age, went to the United States to seek his fortune where he was attacked by Indians, survived (the sole survivor, no less) a horrible snowstorm that wiped out his mining party and cost him a foot and several digits, went back to Canada, became a medical doctor, went to Europe and mastered psychiatry, returned to Canada and oversaw an insane asylum where he instituted many progressive developments in the care for the mentally ill. Whew. And that was just his mainstream biography. His "mystical " biography began through his love of poetry, Walt Whitman being his primary guide. He could recite Whitman's Leaves of Grass verbatim from memory, as well as innumerable other works: truly, an amazing man with an amazing mind.

Cosmic Consciousness is the best known of his several works, and has been reprinted often since its first publication in 1901. The first part of the book lays out his theory in a very cogent and well researched manner. In its simplest form it is this: man's consciousness has evolved over the ages, from simple consciousness: the very basic awareness that all animals have of their immediate surroundings and needs, to self consciousness, when man became aware of himself, his place in the world, how to use reason and imagination, and the knowledge of the certainty of his own death, and lastly, cosmic consciousness, a state of awareness that has slowly been developing over the centuries, becoming more and more present as generations unfold. Cosmic consciousness is a sudden awareness that manifests itself in a revelatory manner to an individual , illuminating the wholeness of the universe as one enormous living and organic presence, bringing with it a great feeling of spiritual immortality, intellectual enlightenment, moral profundity, and shedding in that instant the fear of death, and the sense of sin.

The second part of the book is a rundown of the various historical figures that Bucke believed to have obtained cosmic consciousness, such as Jesus Christ, Gautama the Buddha, Mohammad, William Blake, and others , including, of course Walt Whitman. He uses the recorded words and deeds of these individuals to support his theory and breaks them down in a very interesting way.

Bucke makes his case in a very scientific manner. The theory has every potential to go off into mystical hocus pocus but it never does in Bucke's hands; he treats his subject with seriousness and sobriety. Still, the cumulative message about Cosmic Consciousness and its effect on humanity as it develops is profoundly optimistic and affirming.

The book came to me at a good time. I have been prowling around various religious, mythical, and philosophical works, and have been noticing a subtext in most of them that point to this very kind of unifying vision, all shown through the particular local vernacular of its source. I will post more on this later, but I believe that Bucke is correct, and the 109 years that have followed the publication of his book, with all the historical and technological upheavals that have occurred, show an intellectual and spiritual trend away away from the local "masks" of God, and a move towards a universal Spiritualism.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

All the President's Spin

With the political "silly season" cranking up I figured this next Babeltoon was most apropos. Although drawn a few years back, nothing much has changed. I always thought that "a pox on both your houses" political humor was just too easy. However, as someone who has for decades now observed political activity with the same ghoulish delight that some people have watching Faces of Death videos, I just couldn't resist. You have to appreciate the absurdity of the system that we allow to run the world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

TwoDee Players-Science Fiction Tale

A few years back I drew several stories starring a cast of animal characters. I used them like a theatrical troupe playing different characters in different genre tales. This was "our" homage to Star Trek, and was a lot of fun to do. The music on here is a cheesy version of the theme to Blade Runner by Vangelis, taken off of an el-cheapo Laserlight Sci-Fi theme collection.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Horror...

A small tribute to the Monster Madness that permeated the kid culture of my youth, dedicated to two Horror Fathers who were instrumental in it's intensity, William M. Gaines of EC Comics, and Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland. I have long admired the accompanying music, "Reel Ten", taken from the Repo Man soundtrack.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010


An homage to my favorite Tolkien character. Thanks to all of the artists whose visions of Gandalf were used for this piece, Leonard Rosenman for the music, and Professor Tolkien for cooking up the whole wonderful mythos that has enlightened our lives...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do You Remember "Do You Remember These?"

I am in an odd position of having nostalgia for nostalgia. When I was a kid a huge wave of 50's nostalgia swept the country, most memorably via American Graffiti and Happy Days. But anyone watching TV at that time was inundated with countless K-Tel 50's record compilations- ("Remember those Saturday nights you wished would never end?") 50's style music on commercials, Sha Na Na, etc, etc. I always got a kick out of the Statler Brothers and their 50s nostalgia song came early in the wave, so I never held it against 'em. This is one of their fun songs that we listened to a fair amount from the old parental collection. This video was a homemade production off of Youtube that I thought did a great job of illustrating the song, and actually cleared up a couple of things I always wondered about in the references. I am sure some enterprising child of the 60s or 70s could make a killer version of this tuned to that time, er that is, if an enterprising person could be found among us!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food For Thought

"My friend Alan Watts in a lecture once proposed...'The truth of the matter is that you didn't come into this world at all. You came out of it, in the same way that a leaf comes out of a tree or a baby from a womb...Just as Jesus said that one doesn't gather figs from thistles or grapes from thorns, so also you don't gather people from a world that isn't peopling. Our world is peopling, just as the apple tree apples, just as the vine grapes.' We are a product of this earth, that is to say; and, as Dr. Watts observed in that same talk, if we are intelligent beings, it must be that we are the fruits of an intelligent earth, symptomatic of an intelligent system; for 'one doesn't gather grapes from thorns.'

"We may think of ourselves, then, as the functioning ears and eyes and mind of this earth, exactly as our own ears and eyes and mind are of our bodies. Our bodies are one with this earth, this wonderful 'oasis in the desert of infinite space'; and the mathematics of that infinite space, which are the same as of Newton's mind-our mind, the earth's mind, the mind of the universe-come to flower and fruit in this beautiful oasis through ourselves."

-Joseph Campbell, Myths To Live By

Monday, June 14, 2010

Border Reiver

I thought I might put something current on lest I give the impression that I only listen to songs that are over 40 years old. (Only 95% of the time I do.)

Border Reiver is the first song on Mark Knopfler's new album Get Lucky and is a good representative of state of the art Knopfler...Celtic flavored, literate and fun. For my money Knopfler is the best living guitarist and one of the best songwriters of all time. The flutes unfurling under the drive of the main theme on this song never cease to move me profoundly. Any one who has ever had o job "on the road" can appreciate the spirit of this song. Simply amazing...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And Now Something Colorful

I saw this on MTV's Liquid Television years ago and really liked the animation and great song. The song is by Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo. Reminds me of an old Sesame street bit.

The Naughty Lady

Another old single from Mom's collection, and having the distinction of being the only recording from a member of the Rat Pack in the collection, "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane" by Dean Martin was much listened to as well. (I love the "puh-piyah's"). A jaunty tune with Dino's signature Italian flavor, "Naughty Lady" must be listened to all the way to the end for the cute surprise.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Project From the Past

If you happen be over 30 and grew up somewhere in the metropolitan area of San Antonio, Texas, the best time to view this clip is friday night at midnight. The rest of you won't get it. God bless YouTube!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roll Muddy River

"Roll Muddy River" was on another one of those country anthology LP's of Pop's, maybe the same one that "What Are Those Things" was on, I can't recall. I always liked the folksy ramble of this song. It looks like there are many different versions of this song done by many artists, ranging from real bluegrassy to rockin' country. I am not 100% certain that this particular version, by the Wilburn Brothers, is the exact version we had, but if it is not, it is very close to it.Again, I know nothing about the Wilburn Brothers. I can't help but recall an alternate lyric coined by my oldest brother, "I've got a notion Kung Fu's in slow motion", every time I hear this.

They Ain't Robins, Brother

I hope it doesn't get too tiresome, but I am having fun finding these old songs we used to listen to. This one has been a challenge, too. It was on an anthology album of various country hits that Pop had from the 60's, and was a particular favorite. Charlie Louvin is the artist here, and I am sorry to say I am not familiar with his work. Looking over the albums and titles that are available on iTunes (this song is not BTW), he seems like an old school Johnny Cash type, just my kind o' guy. (He even duets with EmmyLou Harris!) So he is worth further investigation. The only version of this song that is available on iTunes is by Roger Miller, who I normally like all right, but his version is full of weird vocal mannerisms popular at the time that really grate on me when I have this great version to measure it by. I know the accompanying video is kind of weied, right? But it is evocative of the times in its own bizarre way, too...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The World Ain't Big Enough For Me

We had an old 79 of this that I believe was my Grandmothers' originally, and boy did we listen to the fire out of it. It was a thick, heavy disc with a red Columbia label and it had a lot of pops and crackles, but the voyaging spirit the music conveyed was infectious. The anarchronisms always cracked me up, too. I never paid any attention to the artist, Guy Mitchell, when listening to it then, which made it a little hard to find, but then the music was the thing to me then, not the artist. I see that it is available for 99 cents from iTunes, but I am a little hesistant to hear this song too cleanly...The "canned" effect of the LP really takes me back...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Powers That Be

The Tarot cards have always fascinated me.

It is the way the symbols work on the viewer that has always been the draw for me, not so much the idea of their use as an oracle. While having a discussion with my brother concerning the Tarot, I also expressed the fact that I was in a weird book limbo, where I didn't have anything that was particularly calling out to me to be read. Never at a loss for a book recommendation, my brother promptly put a lending copy of Tim Powers' Last Call in my hand.

Now, I suffer from a strange malady that I am sure probably has a medical term. That is, whenever someone lends me a book or movie with much enthusiasm, there is a demonic force in me that resists delving into the material; I don't know why. I have nothing but the greatest respect for my brother's taste in literature, and when I do finally get around to reading his recommendations, I am rarely disappointed. So this time I thought, "Dang it, don't be an asshole. READ THE BOOK!

And I am glad I did.

Last Call is one weird book. It is also fascinating, engrossing, funny, horrifying and epic. It was one of the rare books that just completely kept me guessing all the way to the end. It concerns one Scott Crane, a One-eyed Jack; that is, the son of a very twisted man who happens to be the King of our twisted world by way of a mythic cosmology that dates back to the Fisher King. If the Fisher King remains wounded, the land is wounded, and this particular King's wound is greed for immortality. He has devised a method of bedevilling certain "fish", (that is poker players drawn to an exclusive game), out of their bodies through a magical poker game called "Assumption." Every twenty years he holds a game in which he snares new victims, and as he wears out one body he spiritually assumes another. Scott, as his son, is in line to be a King himself, but Daddy has other plans-he wants to "assume" his own son.
If it all sounds a little mystical, it is. But by blending poker, Tarot, magic, history, Vegas lore, and a host of colorful characters , Powers weaves a completely original and spellbinding story with plenty of action and lots to think about to boot. I understand that this is the first of a trilogy, and I am sure that my trusted brother will have a lending copy of the next two volumes for me when next we meet. Maybe there is hope for me overcoming my malady after all...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Close Encounters of a 2010 KInd

More movies recently watched: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2010, Little Caesar.

I saw both Close Encounters and 2010 back when they originally aired in 1977 and 1984 respectively, and this was my first time to see the great Edward G. in Caesar.

Well. Close Encounters. What can I say? I remember being greatly interested in it when I was a boy because there was a real paucity of any big time mainstream examinations of UFO phenomenenonnonanonns, er, stuff, even though the 70s was the golden age of UFO mania. This seemed like a Serious examination by Somebody with some clout: that is Little Stevie Spielboig with his follow-up to the already much-worshipped Jaws. I remember having the novel, written by Spielberg, (yeah, right, and George Lucas wrote the novel of Star Wars -Alan Dean Foster-is that you?) I also nabbed the Fotonovel of the movie and a cool baby -pink bendy of the cool alien that "communicates" with Francois Truffaut at the end of the movie. The only problem was...The movie itself is kind of a bore...Oh, it has some great sequences, and some interesting ideas, but ultimately it just kind of is. None of the characters, although all very earnestly played, really touch you in any way, and I think that is the main deficit. It was interesting, too, from a cultural perspective, to see that the work begun in Close and then solidified in E.T. turned the mass perception , via the movies of course, from the aliens being hostile invaders from without, and the government being our saviour-as portrayed in 50s and 60s era sci-fi, to the aliens being friendly and wise ambassadors from beyond being squelched by a fascistic secretive government. Independence Day almost 20 years later reversed the trend again. The special effects are still quite fun to watch. I always found the portrayal of the ships to be quite unique.

2010. The sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not made by Kubrick, but with his blessing. This movie more or less ditched the trippy mysticism of 2001 and portrayed a joint Soviet-US mission to investigate the derelict vessel and the monolith that shared its orbit around Jupiter. Roy Scheider does great work as Dr. Heywood Floyd, intent on finding out how his first project went kerfluey, and Bob Balaban plays the fussy computer programmer whose prodigy,the HAL 3000, or whatever number of HAL it was , also wants to discover why his golden boy went homicidal. The acting is actually excellent throughout, with Helen Mirren portraying a very convincing Soviet pilot, and John Lithgow as an engineer in over his head. This movie suffers from being a victim of its time. For starters, of course, the US and the Soviet Union were still in a global pissing match. There was also a hot-headed Reaganesque President whose excursions into Honduras touch off a military showdown with the Russkies. The political backdrop of the entire story is familiar sturm and drang Cold War anxieties of the early eighties, back when everyone was more worried about THE bomb and not just bombs. So the pay-off that the movie presents, a hope for a larger family of lifeforms, breaking us free from our death spiral of petty tribal warfare, has lost some of its punch. I remember being impressed by the sympathetic portrayal of the crews trying to muddle through the political cloud hanging over their mission and seeing each other as real people, and that still is impressive. But after having exonerated HAL and taking the gas out of the enigmatic monoliths, I found myself kind of missing the elegant mysteries of the original.

Little Ceasar- just a straight-up gangster tale from the 30s with another great nasty performance by Edward G. Robinson in all of his "Yah, see, yah!" glory. It is a familiar tale of a little man with big cojones who climbs to the top of the gang world by out-gunning and out-doing all of the other evil-doers. He is a vain man, not unlike Tony Montana in Scarface, more into the prestige and bling of his position than anything else, who is only brought low by the determined opposition of some equally ambitious lawmen. I hope to snare the original Scarface in my DVR net soon, so I can see the master at work again. "Mother of Mercy-is this the end of Rico?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mad as Hell about Network

Okay, tonight's TCM scoop was 1976's Network, starring William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall.

What a great movie. Oh, I could go through the predictable rigmarole about how what was far-out satire in the 1970s was actually a prescient foreshadowing of the three ring circus that is our modern News Infotainment industry, but it was more than that. It was a remarkably mature examination of the weird soul melding that has transpired between the individual and the zeitgeist, as transmitted by television. Watching this movie made me ache for a return to the times when not every film had to be produced to be a date movie or a stylistic masturbatory fantasy of a fifth generation film geek. The storytelling was on par with a fine novel; the characters well defined and archetypal rather than stereotypical; the language intelligent and flirting with true profundity. (The characters actually used some of them there big words now and then to express their ideas!) It was a tale about the very bright people behind the dumbing down of our collective character.

Fincher's "I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!" routine as the raving madman-cum-media star Howard Beale is of course an Academy Award winning legendary performance, and I don't need to throw any additional garlands on it. I will say Dunaway's character, a beautiful but soulless TV exec , was not just wonderfully executed but brilliantly written. As Holden's world weary ex-news executive pointed out, Dunaway's character was television: a seductive , dynamic, irresistible love who turns out to be all surface; a soulless unfeeling ratings machine, and ultimately a lousy lay to boot. Few women in movies have really done it for me quite like Dunaway in her prime. She is absolutely riveting.

Duvall is very believable as the Corporate slime ball, but for my money, Ned Beatty in a very small role as the biggest of the Corporate Big-wigs steals the show. He lays out the way the world really is to a dumbstruck Beale, breaking it all down to not a world of nations and laws, but a world of global titans above all world affairs , whose very life-blood is the ebb and flow of world currency. "I have seen the face of God," Beale murmurs in the wake of Beatty's holy tirade.

I guess the closest we have these days to this high level of film making is the occasional Coen brothers movie, when they are not trying to be too cute. If I think about this too much I have a Beale moment myself, "I am mad as hell, and I am not going to watch Seth Rogan anymore!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Okay...I need to break the ice on 2010 as regards this blog..I've not had much cooking other than usual survival stuff; but I have been watching quite a few old movies I have been catching with my DVR off of TCM lately...

I watched Hammer's The Hound of The Baskervilles with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskervilles earlier this evening and found it an entertaining, if not terribly engrossing movie. I remember watching and enjoying it back in the day as well. I am by no means a huge Holmes fan, in fact I think the only story I ever read was The Red Headed League. I watched a few of those BBC productions with the actor Jeremy Britt and thought his was pretty much the best portrayal of the famous sleuth that I had seen. When I heard about the latest actor to don the deerstalker(although I am sure he didn't-that is far too old school) being Robert Downey Jr., I had to groan. I have nothing against him per se, but the match just doesn't sound that great to me. Several people whose judgement I trust have given the movie a thumbs up, and I will probably watch it when it comes out on DVD. My wife asked me who I would have cast instead, and after some thought I came up with Hugh Laurie. I think he has that intensity and cleverness about him along with the sly wit.

Last night I watched The Uninvited with Ray Milland, concerning a lonely windswept mansion on the English seacoast, and the mystery behind a pair of female ghosts who haunt the place and are battling over the life of a beautiful young woman. A good story that kept my interest to the end.

Other TCM viewings of late: In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart; Public Enemy, Angels With Dirty Faces, and White Heat all starring James Cagney (White Heat being the stand-out though all are excellent).

Blood on Satan's Claw is a great British production concerning a coven of witches attempting to flesh out their returning Dark Lord by growing patches of his skin on different people and then reaping it by way of sacrificing the afflicted victims. Quite creepy with a great old Judge who mercilessly snuffs out the evildoers-a character who would probably be a corrupt villain if the movie were made today. Also a small but great role of the Squire, played by the delightful old actor who portrayed Mr. Tibbs on Are You Being Served. Full of creaking rooks, fog and mossy stones, the atmosphere is perfect. It also boasts a brief but creepy glimpse of the gibbering devil, not yet fully made whole, that was quite effective.

That's all for now-the ice has been broken-stay tuned for more news of absurd goodness!